Book Review: How the Finch Stole Christmas! by Donna Andrews

Posted November 13, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 4 Comments

Book Review: How the Finch Stole Christmas! by Donna Andrews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

How the Finch Stole Christmas! by Donna Andrews
Series: Meg Langslow #22
Genres: Amateur Sleuth, Mystery, Cozy
Published by Minotaur Books on October 24, 2017
Pages: 288
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

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Also in this series: The Hen of the Baskervilles, Duck the Halls, Lark! The Herald Angels Sing, The Gift of the Magpie

Also by this author: The Hen of the Baskervilles, Duck the Halls, The Nightingale Before Christmas, Die Like an Eagle, Gone Gull, Toucan Keep a Secret, Lark! The Herald Angels Sing, The Falcon Always Wings Twice, The Gift of the Magpie

Twenty-second in the Meg Langslow amateur sleuth cozy mystery series and revolving around a very organized blacksmith and her young family based in Caerphilly, Virginia.

My Take

It’s modern-day Christmas Victoriana in its cozy, homey small-town ways with supportive characters, as Andrews adds a healthy dose of humor, which will keep you chuckling.

Meg is most definitely the primary character in How the Finch Stole Christmas! — the local cops should give Meg her own set of flashing lights the way she runs all over town putting out fires! — and we hear all about the shenanigans in the story from her perspective with Andrews using first-person protagonist point-of-view.

The story does provide a lesson in why you must read a contract over…and talk to a lawyer who specializes in that field! And that old cliché? Yep, don’t judge a book by its cover, which covers two many characters.

The characters are old friends one enjoys catching up with — I love reading about Jamie and Josh and what they’re up to these days! That Jamie sounds like quite the ham in his stage role. Dad is always fun in his enthusiasm for murder while Mother is amazing in her get-things-done persona.

I love Meg’s and Randall’s efforts to keep Havers off the sauce. When Meg lays it out for Havers’ agent, I couldn’t help but laugh. A little off-topic, but if he knows what planes do to him, why not take the train?

The villain speech at the end was enlightening, and even more so with the unexpected, but so appropriate, rescue. Only Meg…

The Story

It was supposed to be a good idea, getting a famous actor in to play the lead. Bump those ticket sales up and help reduce town taxes. But no, the good-old-boy routine is up and running at Caerphilly College when they rammed through hiring Malcolm Havers.

”Be nice to the tourists — they’re keeping your taxes down.”

He’s late or absent from rehearsals. He’s usually drunk. Always obnoxious. And Michael is pulling out his hair trying to get any work out of Havers.

And it’s Meg trying to stop his supplier that results in murder.

The Characters

Meg Langslow may be a blacksmith, but she sure isn’t doing much these days. Mostly ‘cause she’s organizing the life out of the town as a “part-time” executive assistant to Randall and caring for her family. Professor Michael Waterston is her husband who teaches drama at Caerphilly College. Jamie and Josh are their ten-year-old twin sons; Josh plays the assistant leader of the shepherds and Scrooge as a boy while Jamie plays Third Angel in the play. Spike is the “Small Evil One”, an eight-and-a-half-pound furball. Mrs. Wiggins is their new Guernsey cow.

Meg’s brother, Rob, is a lawyer with a very successful computer gaming company, Mutant Wizards. Tinkerbell is his LARGE Irish wolfhound. He and their cousin, Rose Noire who is into all things organic and metaphysical, live in Meg and Michael’s house. Dad is supposed to be a retired doctor, but he’s too fascinated by mysteries and dead bodies and is now the local medical examiner. Grandmother Cordelia is Dad’s recently rediscovered mother. Mother is a formidable woman who could organize a covert raid and ensure they were fashionably turned out.

Cousin Festus is one of those lawyers. Cousin Horace Hollingsworth is quite the forensic examiner with a growing reputation. Cousin Maximilian usually works as a bodyguard. Fortunately he’s between contracts and willing to play sober minder, er, companion.

The play is…
…Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which has been expanded to the entire play with Malcolm Havers in the lead role; an alcoholic has-been famous 35 years ago as Sir Tristan in Dauntless Crusader. Fiona is his Gouldian finch. Vince O’Manion is his canny agent. Mother is in charge of costuming; Nadja is her timid chief costume acolyte. Roger is the lighting designer. Gemma is the stage manager. Jake is the set designer. Frank, Darcy, and Ryan are some of the actors.

Grandfather, Dr. J. Montgomery Blake, is a certified wildlife rehabilitator who runs the local zoo. Manoj is the timid senior keeper who heads up the aviary. Blake’s Brigade is an overenthusiastic bunch of volunteers with more enthusiasm than common sense. Laurencio Ruiz, a US Fish and Wildlife Service agent working undercover, is working with Grandfather. Caroline Willner runs the Willner Wildlife Sanctuary, but she’s off on vacation.

Caerphilly, Virginia is…
…actually Yorktown. Randall Shiffley is the mayor and county manager. Stanley Denton is a private investigator. Caerphilly Car Rental is owned by Van Shiffley. Beauregard and Osgood Shiffley drive the snowplows; Beau’s has the ten-point antlers mounted on front while Osgood’s looks like Darth Vader. Cousin Cephas Shiffley is willing to assemble bikes for Christmas. Duane is one of the larger Shiffley cousins. Westlake is the ritzy part of town.

Chief Henry Burke is the head of the police department and county sheriff…now that the Pruitts are gone. Muriel is his wife. Debbie Ann is the dispatcher. Dr. Clarence Rutledge is the local veterinarian and the town’s animal welfare officer. The deputies include Aida Butler, Vern Shiffley, and Sammy Wendell. Cousin Dagmar has the search-and-rescue–cadaver dog, Piper. Peaches is the one who retired. Kayla Butler (Aida’s daughter) is studying music and helping out at the police station. I do like the sound of that Christmas tree, lol.

The too-cheerful Meredith Flugelman is the county social worker. We know who Judge Jane Shiffley will believe. Abe Sass is the drama department chairman. Venetia is Aida’s aunt and prefers to be driven on the back roads.

Reverend Robyn is in charge at Trinity. Ekaterina Vorobyaninova owns the Caerphilly Inn and is enjoying her role as mole. Lupe Esparza is one of her housekeeping associates, a sweet-looking old lady who is one of Ekaterina’s best operatives. Danny Wu runs the House of Mandarin. Muriel owns the local diner and makes a mean pie. Maudie Morton owns the local funeral home. Doris Hammerschmidt is the new owner of the Bluebird House Bed and Breakfast with an unwelcome guest. Niva Shiffley likes the direction Randall is taking with Caerphilly and bought and renovated an old Methodist parsonage into a bed-and-breakfast. Rocky is the owner of The Pit, a dive that lends a helping hand where needed. Marcy is the suspected, um, lady-of-the-evening who makes a mean gyoza.

Haverers are…
…fanatical fans of Malcolm Havers. The Avid (Rabid) Fan has been banned from rehearsals. Melisande “Milly” Flanders wants to celebrate Weaseltide.

Venable Pruitt is renting a farm to John Willimer and his wheelchair-bound mother-in-law, Jane Frost, who has a passion for cats. (Johnny’s mother, Deedee, was Mrs Frost’s cousin.) Becky was Mrs. Frost’s daughter. Matt Gormley lives next door to Willimer and drives a 1956 Ford pickup. Threepwood Shiffley has a farm down the road from them. Mr. Brickelhouse is an impostor.

Clay County is…
…a neighbor who would love to sabotage anything Caerphilly does. Floyd Dingle is the only cop who knows how to use the AFIS system. Sheriff Wicker is a lousy cop. The Clay Pigeon is a disreputable bar.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a bright green with sprinkles of pale green snowflakes as the background. A bright red Christmas stocking banded in white fur and filled with candy canes and gifts is carried (or sat upon) by a blue-winged Gouldian finch wearing a Santa hat. The author’s name is at the top in an embossed and shaded white along with the series information nestled in between the finch and the stocking. The title is in an embossed red in the lower right corner.

The title refers to a critical component that breaks the case, How the Finch Stole Christmas!

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